Wednesday, December 24, 2008

December Stars

I'm in the midwest visiting family, and things here are different. The sky is grey, and the chill in the air reminds me of my long lost ability to endure cold. Even the nighttime sky looks different from here. I guess perspective is everything.
I'm lucky that once a year the most important people in my life are in the same room at the same time. I treasure the time I have here, even though it is always too short. Every time I see them my friends from Ohio ask when I will be moving back. They don't seem to get it - I'm not. I miss being here, and during certain times it's been excruciating to be absent - but leaving opened up my world, and I want it to keep expanding. I've spent my adult life wandering, I'm one of those souls who was born a long way from home.
Being here reminds me of what I'm trying to do with my life, and reassures me that funk I've been in lately is minor. I'm proud that the bravest man I've ever met calls me brother, I love you E, you inspire me.
Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Six Things That Make Me Happy

Today I need a reminder of the positive stuff in my life. Here are a few things that make the good times so good, that the shitty moments are forgotten.
  1. Sunshine. It makes me smile every time. It also burns me since I have a seriously pale complexion. Oh irony.
  2. Swimming in the ocean
  3. Bikes. Everything about them. I love the freedom, I love the burning legs when grinding up a hill, and the rush of 40 MPH switchbacks. I love being a bike commuter. Plus, cycling chicks are hot!
  4. Holidays with family. These are rare now that I live 2000 miles away. I especially appreciate the fleeting time I get to spend with my three brothers, and my niece and nephew.
  5. Effortless friendships. I have friends from childhood, college, my time in Chicago and of course here in SD which I treasure immensely. Even when distance and laziness have caused us to lose touch, good friends reconnect without awkwardness or drama. I miss you all - give me a call
  6. Independence. I moved away from home at 18, got my own place at 22. Loved that feeling. I made my last car payment, and grinned ear-to-ear. I delight in expressing my free will.
Why six things? That's just the way it works. I guess banana ice cream will have to wait for next time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lesson Learned

I thought I would get away with being lazy. Boy was I wrong. I will never (ever, ever!) again ride my bike without lubing up first.
I was only going to be on the bike for 90 minutes, a far cry from the 14 hours of my longest training ride. I was going to be on the trainer, in my apartment and it was intended to be an easy workout. The plan was to be in my aggressive aero position for the whole time, but 90 minutes isn't nearly long enough to cause CPS (Crushed Package Syndrome). CPS is serious, so serious that cyclists are willing to look like idiots by wearing spandex shorts with diapers sewn into them in order to avoid it. But this is only 90 minutes, surely I'll be fine, right?
After 30 minutes on the bike, I realized that while CPS only occurs on long rides (and has nearly been eliminated by the heaven sent Adamo saddle), I had forgotten about CBD. Chaffed Ball Disorder affects dozens of people in this country every day, and education is the key to defeating it. Prevention is crucial, because post-affliction treatment is unpleasant.
Everyone has their own favorite prevention method. There are a lucky few who are immune to CBD and don't need any protection, but luckily the rest of us have options. There are the cleverly named DZ-nuts and Bag Balm. There are the high end cycling products Chamois Butt'r and Assos Chamois Cream. There's the run of the mill Body Glide, or even plain old petroleum jelly. Hell, even KY or chapstick will do in a pinch - though with KY avoid the heat sensitive lotion, and with chapstick make sure you throw it away immediately to avoid a future mishap!
The point is, don't be a victim of CBD - protect yourself! You'll be glad you did.

Decision made

I had planned on doing the short course at WF, but I just confirmed my registration for the 2009 Wildflower Long Course on May 2nd. Along with Ironman California 70.3 on April 4th, that makes two half Ironman races in a month. I did both of these races in 2008 (with a century ride and the LJ half marathon in between) with poor results at WF. I got sick and ended up doing the race with the flu, plus I had mechanical issues on the bike course.
This year, for the first time, Wildflower will not be an 'A' race for me. My friends NS and SP won't be there, and I'm really going to treat it as a working vacation. I might even stay in the campgrounds - but no promises there. I'm not sure what kind of results to expect. Last year I had the flu, but the weather was unusually cool and pleasant. Normally WF is out of this world hot, which is bad news for Mr. Dehydration over here. This year I'll be healthy and my bike will hopefully have more than one gear. We'll see how it goes!

Monday, December 15, 2008


Something is not right with the world. Saturday I did not ride my bike. That might not sound shocking to normal people - but all you triathletes out there probably just gasped. I believe this was the first Saturday since June 2006 where I did not ride - and it was weird. But that isn't the only craziness going on lately. It's also raining and cold here in San Diego, which makes us go insane. You'd think a blizzard had hit from all the complaining people do when it rains, and we apparently can't drive worth a crap on wet roads. If global climate change causes more rain here (or god help us ice) - we're all going to die in highway accidents long before the rising ocean swallows us up.
But the strangeness of this week gets even deeper. I have two dates this week. Real, actual dates with women who apparently don't know yet how messed up I am. And on top of that, a friend and I were being hit on at a restaurant yesterday by some cute girls who were impressed with our "Ironman Finisher" shirts. This is a odd situation for me. To say that I don't like dating is an understatement - I'd rather run a marathon. And somehow, I'm worse at dating than I am at running - those of you who have seen me run might find that hard to believe. I don't seek out relationships, I'm actually very happy by myself. How does someone like that end up in this situation? Because the world is nuts.
I spent 14 months sequestered away from the world training for my big race. My days consisted of an early morning run, then driving to work, sitting in a cube by myself for 8 hours, driving to a bike/swim/run workout, home to make dinner, then straight to bed. I didn't do anything social. I missed my best friends birthday parties, I skipped labor day on the beach, and even spent 4th of July riding my bike up Mt. Palomar. I did everything I possibly could to avoid meeting someone, and was successful for over a year. But despite my best efforts, I met an interesting girl on a bike ride, and ended up hanging out with her for a while. It didn't work out, but I mention it because it directly relates to my current messed up situation. There are two reasons why my social calendar has filled up, neither of which make any damn sense:
  1. I met girl #1 while I was not available. I was interested in the above mentioned bike ride girl, and didn't want to juggle multiple situations at once - I can't even handle one. But girl #1 was attracted to me because I was not available - had I been single when we met she would have had no interest at all.
  2. Girl #2 I met at a party this weekend and she asked about my triathlon exploits. Most normal people think triathletes are insane, and so I try not to talk about it around them, but she just kept asking about Ironman. Did I find an Ironman groupie? She obviously doesn't yet know how ordinary triathletes really are, or how completely f'ed up our schedules are. Normal people don't understand "I can't go out Friday because I need to swim and then get up early on Saturday, and Sat is booked with a long bike ride and a nap, plus I need to run Sunday morning. Maybe we can hang out Sunday night? Oh, and it's going to be this way for the next 10 months."
Pretty f'ing weird, right? My training schedule is light right now so I have time to pursue these possibilities, but pretty soon that will change. Luckily, it won't take long for these ladies to realize that I'm completely nuts - and I can get back to normal. It's a lot to think about, but honestly the only thing on my mind is guilt for having not gone on a bike ride on Saturday. Is it possible that the world is sane, and I'm the crazy one? Nah...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sophomore Slump

I'm suffering from a mild case of Sophomore-itis. My second Ironman race is looking like it will be much different than my first one. I spent the previous 14 months training hard for my first Ironman, and I was focused on that goal like a laser. It was easy to stay on target for IM, I was scared shitless of race day. I worried about the unending pain, the heat of the Arizona desert, running my first marathon, and my history of dehydration. My confidence in my physical ability increased throughout the training, but even on race morning I knew there was a good chance I would end up in the medical tent with an IV in my arm, and a DNF on my record. Fear kept me going strong for 14 months - it's one hell of a motivator.

Today is the start of my second week back to training. It's been easy stuff so far, short easy runs, test sets in the pool, and a single ridiculously short bike ride on saturday. But somewhere along the way I lost my fear, and my motivation has waned. I still have goals, but I noticed that the nature of my goals has fundamentally changed. My goals have always been about proving to myself that I could complete something. Can I swim across La Jolla Cove? Can I climb a mountain? Can I complete a half marathon without walking? Can I ride my bike 100 miles? 200 miles? I always tried to be as fast as I could at everything I attempted, but that was never my focus. I was trying to prove that I could do it, not that I was fast at it. I'm not a world class athlete, and the idea that there are lots of people faster than me is easy to accept. I have never thought of myself as a competitive person - though I have some friends who might disagree!

2009's goals are a little different. They're less about completing events, and more about performing well in them. This is a radically different mindset than I am used to. It requires a more aggressive race strategy, and also more risky. My old "just complete the race" mindset caused me to think of a DNF as the worst possible thing that could ever happen. This idea leads to a very conservative race plan - save your energy in case you need it later. Of course I ended up tired at the end of races, but normally I felt fine a few hours later - or certainly by the next morning. This mindset also lead me to the most dangerous situation I've had during my triathlon career - I refused to quit on a 14 hour bike ride in the 120 degree California desert. Even after my legs cramped so badly that they could no longer support my body weight, I kept going. I eventually did call it quits that day - but I had passed the threshold of sensibility long before that point, and it very easily could have ended badly. With a performance based mindset however, things are much different. I need to "leave it all on the course", and I probably will take much longer to recover after a race than before. I also need to be ready for my first DNF in a race. If I'm racing on the red line, then my likelihood of misjudging is greater, and my margin for error is smaller. Is going faster worth risking a DNF? This is the year I find out.

So here I am, 1 week into a 10 month season - and I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I don't want to do anything, I'm going through the motions like a zombie. My workouts are easy, but I'm not doing them very well - even a 5 mile run hurts. I certainly don't feel like an Ironman. I've lost my appetite completely, and I'm only eating because I know that I need to in order to fuel my workouts. I went from training 20 hours a week a month ago, to only 7 hours this week - and all the spare time I have is boring me to tears. I started watching TV again, that evil succubus. I watched an entire season of Dexter this week. Spoiler alert: he's a serial killer and he spends the whole season killing people. Why did I waste my time on that?! God help me if I get sucked into watching the NFL again.

Here's hoping the fear returns. Maybe I'll find something new to be afraid of. Maybe the crazy weather and insane hills of Wisconsin will be enough to get my fire burning again. Maybe the idea of failure will drive me to the next peak. Maybe the threat of disappointing my coach and training partners will fuel me to excel. Or maybe I won't need fear at all? Maybe I'll find inspiration instead. I don't know what it is that will get me through my next 140.6 mile event - but the smart money is on me achieving what I set out to do. I don't like to lose.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Swimming Breakthrough #2

I described how I became a nearly mediocre swimmer in a previous post. After having that first breakthrough, my swimming plateu'd. I was swimming lot, but never really got any faster. After about 6 months I decided that 2:00 per 100 meters was as fast as I would ever be - and honestly I was pretty happy with that. I kept swimming because it was fun, and to keep sharp - but I really stopped caring about making any improvements.
I swam masters at UCSD - a very serious program - for a semester. It was a lot more swimming than I was used to - 3000 meters or more 3x a week. Thanks to coach Sickie I certainly improved my swimming, including learning to breast stroke and backstroke, but I didn't really ever get faster. One thing Sickie told me stuck in my head, he said I suffered from "classic limp elbow". He showed me how I pulled, which was by bending my elbow and dragging my forearm through the water. Essentially I had no catch. He showed me how I wanted to keep my elbow high, and turn my arm into a scoop. I tried to do what he told me, but I just didn't have the strength - after a few strokes my weak elbow returned. He reminded me every day, and although I kept trying, I never really got it right.
The next spring I returned to the TCSD group swims. My old coach had moved on, and so I was starting from scratch. My swimming picked up where it always had been, swimming 2:00 100's. That went on for a month or two, until one night something changed. I didn't know what it was - I wish I could take credit for it. For whatever reason my arms felt strong. I was pulling hard, elbows high, arm scooping water. For some reason this arm strength didn't die after a few strokes - it lasted all night long! And I was swimming 1:45 100 meter sprints. That's a hell of a difference! This was my breakthrough for 2008. One of my friends who had been swimming in the same lane with me for months asked me what I had eaten that day, because I looked fast! I tried to imagine what tongue-in-cheek sarcasm my old coach would have had for me had she seen me that night! From that day on, I have been swimming at the 1:45 pace - and sprinting much faster.
At first I thought my unusual arm strength was the result of being well rested. But that wasn't it - that might explain one night, but not every night. My arms hadn't gotten stronger - I barely have any muscle in them. Plus, this improvement was not gradual. After a year of swimming the same speed, one day I woke up and was 12% faster. Something else changed. I believe I started rotating my body more correctly, resulting in my arms doing less work and being more efficient. That's my best guess anyway.
The important thing about both of the breakthroughs I've experienced in my brief swimming career is that they had the same root cause. Technique. Sure, improving your fitness will improve your swimming and you should do so. But that improvement will be gradual, and relatively small in magnitude. But fix a hitch in your stroke technique and you'll instantly see dramatic improvement. And here's the great news for new swimmers like me - our technique sucks! We've got huge improvements to make!
After all that long winded tale, I'll leave you with some basics that I've picked up in my brief swimming career. Remember I've only been swimming for two seasons - so basically I swim at an 7th grade level. It's entirely possible that I'm giving you terrible advice.
  • body position is critical. Wearing a wetsuit will help feet draggers by floating the legs - but it's better to do it right in the pool as well.
  • Kicking makes big difference - yes even for wetsuit wearing triathletes. Many triathletes don't kick efficiently and get almost no locomotion while doing kickboard drills. I think this is because they are doing a bicycle kick, bending the knees, and just moving water up and down. You want to push water horizontally. Do this by generating the power at your hips, and keeping your knees relatively straight. Think of your legs like long swimming fins, they should be pushing water out behind you - not just pushing it down towards the floor. Of course many triathletes deliberately don't kick in an attempt to save their legs for cycling and running - I guess that's a strategic decision each of us makes for ourselves.
  • Catch water and pull! Don't limp elbow your arms during the pull. Keep your elbow high and think of your arm as a scoop. Remember to pull the water along the horizontal direction, don't waste energy pulling it towards the bottom of the pool. Use your hip/body rotation to help your pull - otherwise you're going to have some back/shoulder pain.
  • I don't know why - but for me calmer is faster. My fastest laps are the ones where I stay smooth and in control. I think that for beginners like me efficiency trumps power.
It's important to stick with it, and talk to others about swimming technique. Sometimes having instructions worded differently can trigger a mental image for you that helps you visualize the proper form. For example, maybe "pretend like your arm is draped over a barrel" might be more helpful to you than "keep your elbow high".

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ode to Wildflower

For those of you who don't know (where have you been?) registration for the Wildflower Triathlon Festival is now open. There are three events: Long Course (70.3), Short Course (Olympic), and a sprint mountain bike race. The race is held the first weekend of May in Monterey county, and is commonly referred to as the "Woodstock of triathlon". It really is a great event. While Kona is the superbowl of our sport, Wildflower is where first timers and world champions rub shoulders. Nothing I've experienced has demonstrated the spirit of inclusiveness in the triathlon community like my experiences at Lake San Antonio.
My first triathlon ever was the short course in 2007. Everyone's "first time" is special, and for me that meant toeing the line on Sunday morning in wave #3. I was wearing my hot pink swim cap, and was scared of my first full contact swim start. I have two memories of the swim portion of that race. First, it felt like swimming in a washing machine. I couldn't believe that after 20 minutes of swimming there were still people inches away from me on all four sides. Second, I remember getting my first mouthful of water - and being pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted! People complain about the water being dirty at Lake San Antonio - but fresh water is a million times better than the salty, diesel fuel-y taste of Mission Bay in San Diego. The bike course is mostly a blur in my memory except for the first mile and the last mile. The first mile is up a pretty large incline called Lynch Hill. It's not that bad a climb, 7% grade or so, but it starts right after the bike mount line - so you have lots of people weaving around trying to get clipped into their pedals and find the right gear. I think I passed 100 people on that hill - apparently I was a better than average hill climber. I realized that late in the race as we were climbing a big hill, and as I passed him a fellow competitor yelled "Nice! way to go!". There had been people on the sidelines cheering for me all day. That was the first time I'd ever had an athlete compliment me - and it felt good because he knew what he was talking about. I felt like at that moment I had joined the club, this guy was my competition - but also a classy sportsman - and a compatriot in the battle against the hill. On the return trip we had to descend Lynch Hill - which was terrifying. I never have descended well, and this situation was as bad as ever. I was going downhill on the right side of the road at about 30 MPH. We couldn't be on the far right of the lane because the run course used the same space - so we had about half the lane for descending bikes. Some people were hitting their brakes and going slow, some people were bombing down the hill at 40 MPH. Additionally there were bikes climbing the hill in the other lane - and they would occasionally cross into our lane (technically a disqualification) to pass slower climbers. It's a recipe for disaster, I wouldn't be surprised if some serious accidents had occurred there.
The run was miserable. After winding along the lake a bit the course turned onto a road, and up a hill. I was out of breath instantly, but forced my feet to keep moving - even if painfully slow. I kept waiting for the top of the first hill, dreaming of the downhill. It never came. What I didn't know ahead of time is that the course has one hill - and it's about 4.5 miles long. At the end you descend back to lake elevation on Lynch hill - which is pretty damn steep. I ran the whole course - though honestly I don't know how, I was exhausted. I crossed the line in less than 3 hours, which was my target time, and instantly got dizzy and my vision narrowed. This was my first race, and also my first experience with dehydration. As was typical for this race, it had been f'ing hot that day - and my nutrition/hydration plan pretty much didn't exist. I had never done a running race before, and hadn't learned how to drink while running - so most of the water I attempted to take in ended up in my lap. I loved my experience at Wildflower, especially sharing it with two of my best friends - and couldn't wait to return the next year.
In 2008 I completed the long course, and to my great surprise and pleasure my buddies NS and SP returned with me to race. I don't remember the swim at all. I do remember being on the boat ramp waiting to start as the pro's came in. Chris McCormack looked like a man possessed coming out of the water - I was shocked at how quickly he shed his wetsuit.

The bike was rough for me. I was on a new bike, and I had mechanical issues. I stopped 5 times on the course to try to adjust my derailleur, but with no luck. The course is hilly - highlighted by what they call "Nasty Grade". It's a long steep hill, and it's at the end of the course near mile 40 - so if you didn't save some for the end you are screwed. It's also populated by the best and most entertaining triathlon fans you'll ever see. I felt fine climbing the hill, and even though my mechanical issues prevented me for really applying any force to my pedals I still passed a lot of people. The eventual descent from Nasty Grade is fantastic! It's scenic, and I hit over 50MPH - FUN!! It almost made me forget how pissed I was with my bike performance due to the mechanical issues.

The long course run is hellacious. I don't know any other way to describe it. It's got lots of hills, and they are steep! I'm not a runner, and I have almost no experience in running races - but I'd be hard pressed to imagine a half marathon course more challenging than this one. I've done two half marathons in SD with some hills (La Jolla and AFC) - and neither of them even comes close. I had to walk a lot of the course, which ultimately left me unsatisfied with my performance in the race. But I certainly had a great time doing it.
I have loved Wildflower and would recommend it to anyone. I've missed out on camping both years - I prefer a nice soft hotel bed - but maybe this year I'll make it to the party. For the first time in 3 seasons, WF won't be an "A" race for me, so what the heck. Though I still haven't decided whether to do the short or long course race, I'm certain I'll be at Lake S.A. come May. Maybe I'll see you there.

Also, check out Tri-Cal TV for some cool video of the race - including a video shot on Nasty Grade.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ultra Insane

Earlier this year the Triathlon Club of San Diego hosted a showing of Dean Karnazes' film Ultramarathon Man. Dean had run from San Francisco to San Diego for the event - I think it took him 3 or 4 weeks to do it. When we asked him why he ran, his response was "have you seen gas prices lately?" As Dean explained to the crowd the details of some of the endurance events he had done, we all gasped and our jaws hit the floor. In a theatre full of crazy people, Dean stood out for being crazy. There were a couple of serious ultra endurance athletes in the audience and I'm guessing they were grinning as the rest of us were being shocked. One of them was David Goggins, who is probably the most intense endurance athlete I know of. Both he and Dean have completed the Badwater ultramarathon, which is a 135 mile running race through Death Valley and up Mt. Whitney - and it makes Ironmen cringe in fear.
Anyway, I guess David Goggins had decided that Dean's run from San Fran deserved reciprocation - and he ran to the event himself. I don't remember the details, but I believe he ran from Chula Vista to Encinitas (33 miles) for the movie - and then ran home in the dark afterwards. I was introduced to David briefly as he and his friend were putting on their lights for the long run home. The guy is physically amazing, after one look you're not surprised at all to learn that he runs 150 mile races. He was very quiet, polite and understated, he wasn't looking for attention. He was also very intense.
Here's a couple of videos about Mr. Goggins, I thought they were pretty cool. Watching these makes me feel better about my triathlon addiction - there's still a long way to go before I reach this level of insanity.

Monday, December 8, 2008

From Rock to Duck: Swimming Breakthrough #1

I've been swimming for two years, and in that time I've had two major breakthroughs. The first one was very rewarding, and really made it possible for me to complete my first triathlon.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I didn't exactly have a swimming background as a child. Oddly, my near drowning at the age of 13 didn't affect my dislike of water - I really had never enjoyed swimming. I couldn't swim at all before I started training for triathlon at the age of 29. I don't mean that I was slow - I mean I hadn't been in a swimming pool since Reagan was president, and I was wearing floaties on my arms then. I didn't even own a bathing suit - and certainly not a swimming speedo. Once I had decided to learn, I started with the internet. I read about swim technique, and I practiced some moves in front the computer. My first practice stroke resulted in me putting my hand directly into the ceiling fan above my head and practically breaking a finger.
It didn't take long before I was bored with that. I went to a fantastic local swim shop called Paradowski's and purchased some goggles and a jammer style speedo. I graduated from practicing in front of the computer to the short and shallow pool at my apartment complex. I had to go very early in the morning since swimming laps in that thing would be pretty disturbing to any other patrons. I swam from one end to the other - I thought it went well, even though I was out of breath. Of course it only took a few strokes to go across this pool, kicking off the wall got me half way I think. I caught my breath and did it again. I was pretty good! I tried swimming two lengths, down and back, before taking a rest. It was tough, but I made it OK. My first thought was: "this is f'ing boring. I've gone like 5 lengths of the pool and I pretty much mastered it!"
Next up, a group swim with coaching hosted by the best triathlon club in the world - TCSD. I showed up the first night without any intention of getting in the water, I just wanted to get a feel for how it worked. It was one of the most intimidating nights of my life. I've always been capable and very independent, and showing up in a foreign environment and asking for help made me feel extremely vulnerable. I met the resident coach, who right away was friendly and seemed ecstatic to have a beginner. She instantly put me at ease (to some extent at least) and started asking about my swimming background. My "swimming background"? Was she joking? I told her the truth - and her smile turned to concern. "Are you comfortable in the water?" she asked, which was her polite way of saying "Am I going to have to rescue you?" My ego kicked in, and I assured her I was fine. That was true: I wasn't scared of water - I was scared of looking like an idiot. I didn't get in the water that night, I just watched. I don't remember a lot about it, but I remember being confused by kickboards, fins, buoys and the crazy drills they were doing.
Two days later I attended the group swim again, this time prepared to get in the water. Coach put me in the "stroke lane", which is the shallowest lane and right next to the wall. Think of it as the "short bus". I believe there was one or two other people in the lane with me, and they turned out to be much more advanced than I. Coach told us to swim 100 meters for warmup - one lap in the 50 meter pool. I started off, and didn't even come close to making it to 50 meters. I was drinking water and choking and flailing - I grabbed the wall, probably only seconds before the lifeguard was going to jump in after me. I took a few seconds, then made an attempt to continue. I think I swam the 50 meters in 3 segments, grabbing the wall after each. Once I reached the end of the pool, coach had walked down to greet me. I was completely exhausted, I couldn't imagine swimming further than 50 meters in a day. She offered a few tips - somehow making it sound like with a few adjustments I would be swimming like a pro - and then sent me off on my return trip. Once back to the starting point all of the "stroke lane" occupants were given a pretty lengthy lesson, and did quite a bit of stroke practice in the air. Coach got really frustrated with me because I couldn't do a "pull" in the correct orientation, even in the air. She made me get out of the pool and physically moved my arms for me - and I still didn't get it. Somehow I didn't understand the complicated jargon she was using like "left" and "towards the ground".
My first night at the pool was rough. But because of a welcoming atmosphere, I came back. I made every workout (twice a week) from November through March. I spent every night in the "stroke lane", getting comments along the lines of:
  • You're doing it completely wrong
  • You're swimming like a bear
  • You need to rotate your hips
  • You need to open your eyes
  • You're head is supposed to get wet
  • Flailing wildly doesn't help
  • Kick your feet. No, not like you're on a bicycle
Coach's sarcastic humor and coaching style fit my self-deprecating personality perfectly. She was able to be brutally honest about my issues, and I never took it as anything other than constructive. I made progress, even though I was still the worst swimmer in the slowest lane.
Often we would go out for beers after the workouts. I remember vividly my tenth week of swimming - my 20th session in the pool went pretty well. For the first time I started to feel comfortable in the water. I swam 100 meters without stopping for the first time - and it felt easy to boot! We went out for beers after and coach told me "You really had a breakthrough tonight. You looked good. You looked like you were drowning much more slowly". I'll never forget that. With one sentence she lifted me up, made me smile, and reminded me of how far I still had to go.
That was my first breakthrough. I went from sinking to swimming. What was amazing to me was that it wasn't gradual. I didn't get a little bit better each week until finally I "got it". It happened overnight. On Monday of that week I swam like I had been pretty much since day one - and on Wednesday I was swimming like I knew what I was doing. How did that happen?
Part of it was that I had some practice with what I was supposed to do, and was finally starting to get some of it correct. But the main reason was that I had finally got my body position right. Well... not right, but way better than before. I, like many beginners, swam with my feet dragging down behind me. If you think of how you would look from the side as you swim, you should be a straight horizontal line. My profile up until then had looked much more like a hockey stick - with my feet well below the surface of the water, acting like an anchor. This happens when your head is too high - normally because you're trying to get your face out of the water so you can breathe. What I was able to do on breakthrough night was to breathe without lifting my face too far out of the water. This kept my feet near the surface, and improved my body position.
This made a world of difference. I no longer felt like I was sumo wrestling against the water as someone blasted me in the face with a firehose. I was now laying on top of the water, nice and comfortable. I have no idea how fast I had been swimming in my early weeks - but as of week 10 I was swimming 2 minutes per 100 meters. That's not fast - but it's a far cry from where I started, and it was enough to get me through my first season of racing.
The important thing is that this wasn't a improvement in fitness, but an improvement in technique. In endurance sports it's usually better to be more efficient than to be stronger. Here's the takeaway points:
  • body position is critical. Most of us drag our feet below us and keep our head too high out of the water. Rotating properly should allow you to get your face out of the water to breathe without having to lift your head out of the water. Try to be horizontal. If your butt is out of the water, that's a good sign. Get a coach or a friend (or a video) to take a look at your position - I find that my mental idea of what I am doing and the reality of what I am doing are completely different.
If you get your body position right, you'll be able to breathe easily, which will lead to staying calm, which means you can think about the finer points of your stroke.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Something Lost

I lost something this weekend, and I'm not sure why it bothers me so much. It wasn't valuable, and it's easy to replace - but for some reason I'm still thinking about it. It came into my life a few years ago, an afterthought - not something I sought out or was even interested in. But it came along as a package deal - it was bundled with something else that I care about deeply. I own a lot of them now, but this one was my first - and it was always my favorite. I treated it with care - not like the others I own.
This weekend it bounced out of my life just as easily as it had bounced in two summers ago. When I realized it was gone, it was too late. I could try to go back for it, hoping it would still be in some kind of salvageable state - but it just wasn't worth the effort. So why is it still in my head? At a party last night a friend told me that she had seen it earlier in the day - she must have come by shortly after it bounced away from me. Hearing that made me think that maybe I should have gone back for it - tried to save what was left of it after the abuse it most certainly received.
I have some obsessive compulsive tendencies. I don't like to modify things - my car has the factory stereo in it still even though it sucks! I fill my candy dish with peppermints not because I like them (though I do) but because that's what came in the dish when I received it. I collect complete sets of things - god help me I own every R. Kelly album ever released - and they have all been shit since 1994! And I don't like to lose things.
But why am I spending so much time thinking about a piece of plastic? Why do I worry about this one, when I have a dozen others - and it's already been replaced?
Maybe I don't like to lose. Maybe I'm just crazy. I don't know - but next time I'm turning around just to make sure.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Finding my True Self

I nearly drowned as a child. I have a pretty bad memory for details sometimes, but this I remember vividly. I was 13, and my family took a vacation to visit relatives in Florida. They were nice enough to teach me and my brothers how to water ski. We were in the intercoastal waterway on the east coast, so there weren't any waves.
After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to get up on the ski's, I was given the advice to "lean back more", which I did on the next attempt. I guess I leaned back too far - I fell over backwards, feet to the sky. Unfortunately, the ski handle wedged itself between my legs and I started being dragged upside down and backwards from the crotch by the boat. Of course, I didn't get a good breath before I went down - but it almost didn't matter. I was wearing a life vest, but it couldn't keep my head above water as the boat pulled me along. The people on the boat could see my body being dragged underwater, and assumed that I was still hanging on to the bar with my hands - so they kept going. I struggled to free myself, but the force of water rushing by at 20 MPH was colossal. I didn't really know what was going on in the boat - why they weren't stopping - but it was clear that they weren't. I realized that I was going to die.
It's not a feeling I think I can describe accurately. I've done scary things before: skydiving, walking on the edge of icy cliffs on Mt. Whitney, jumping over rattlesnakes, numerous cycling close calls, driving in Boston. All those things produce adrenaline, and the world slows down as the seconds stretch themselves out in your mind. Then the moment is over, and your heart is pounding and mind racing as you come to realize the details of what just occurred.
That's not how I felt on that day in Florida. I needed to breathe in, but I knew I couldn't. I felt claustrophobic and panicy at first. I knew exactly where I was and what was happening: I had a breath full of water in my lungs, I couldn't free myself from the rope, and I knew the boat wasn't stopping. I opened my eyes, and to this day I remember exactly what the muddled blue and green blur looked like. My panic turned to calm. I accepted that I was going to drown, and was actually starting to appreciate how beautiful the blue/green swirl was - and in some sick way glad I wasn't going to die in some other horrible, painful manner. Of course eventually the driver of the boat did cut the engine and my life vest pulled me up to the surface where I coughed and choked and vomited water out of my body. The whole thing probably only took 20 seconds, though in my mind it was much longer. I didn't lose consciousness and didn't need medical help. In reality, I probably wasn't very close to death by drowning - though I certainly believed it.
I like to think about that event when there are rough times in my life. I'm proud of how I dealt with the possibility of my own demise. I got past the initial panic and fear and shittyness of the situation and once I had exhausted my options for saving myself, I accepted my fate. I didn't scream, or cry, or pray - I kept my head. I haven't always handled myself in a way that I am proud of - and when that happens I try to remind myself of that day in the murky Florida swamp water. I try to re-capture the maturity and rationality I had in those moments.
I've thought about that a lot recently. I could use a good dose of rationality right now - and occasionally a booster of maturity wouldn't hurt either.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Triathlon Checklist

I've only been doing this sport for two seasons, but I feel like it's all old hat for me. I forgot how confusing and intimidating a newbie's first race can be. So I figured I'd write something for the less experienced, or someone preparing for their first triathlon.
The most useful thing I've ever done to prepare for my races has been to create a checklist. Triathlon is a simple sport on paper - swim, bike, run, visit the beer garden. In reality, there's lots of equipment and "stuff" to prepare. The night before a race I lay out everything I am going to need on the floor, and then pack it into my bag in a way that will be useful once I make it to the venue. But what goes in?
I know elite athletes in many sports practice visualization as a means to improve performance. I've never really believed in that - then again I've never been an elite athlete! But I do think that visualizing your race, walking through it in your mind, will help you identify what to pack into your bag. So what I do is mentally walk through race day. Below is the narrative that might go through my head:
I need to wake up (usually at some ungodly hour) on race day. So I set my alarm clock, and sometimes a backup. Once I'm up I'll need to fuel for my race. So I set up breakfast. I usually eat oatmeal and fruit so my prep really just means making sure I have the food I want and that there are some clean dishes. Little stresses like having to wash a dish can turn race morning into a more hectic experience than it needs to be. Next, I need to get dressed. I normally wear my swim shorts under street clothes, my running shoes, and something to keep warm. Sometimes on race day breakfast and your starting gun are many hours apart - if so make sure you bring a snack. When I get to the race venue, I head to transition. I go to body marking and have my number written on arm, then set up my transition area. I put on my wetsuit, making sure to avoid chaffing by applying body glide first, and head to the start line. I'm standing on the start line with 20 to 2000 close friends. I'm wearing my swim cap (from your checkin packet) and goggles. I am in my wetsuit, with my timing chip attached to my ankle. The cannon goes off - I hit GO on my wristwatch, good thing I remembered to wear it. Alright, I'm out of the water and I strip the wetsuit off on my way into T1. There I wash the sand off my feet with a water bottle and dry them a little on my towel. It's on with the socks, bike shoes, jersey (I don't swim in mine), race belt, sunglasses and helmet. Grab the bike, run out of transition and start pedaling. It's freaking hot out here, glad I put on my sunscreen this morning (or maybe in T1). And I'm thirsty, good thing I've got my water bottles in the bike cages and filled with drinks. I also might need salt tabs or gu or some other nutrition, luckily that's already in my jersey pockets. Still pedaling. Man this is taking forever, how far till the turnaround? I was smart enough to reset my bike computers mileage before the race, so I know exactly where I am at. Finally done cycling, dash into T2. Rack the bike, off with the helmet, sunglasses and bike shoes. On with the running shoes and running hat. I head out onto the run course - nutrition and salt tabs still in my pockets - and haul ass. Cross the finish, collect a medal, enjoy the post-race festivities. Head back to transition to collect my equipment - and maybe change into a clean dry outfit.

Did you catch all the crap I need to bring? It's a lot. Luckily forgetting something isn't usually the end of the world - but forget just the wrong item and you could be screwed. Here's the full list, which is pretty much what I use for local sprint distance races:
  • swim/tri shorts
  • pre-race street clothes
  • running shoes
  • timing chip and strap
  • jacket
  • pre-race snack and/or waterbottle
  • swim cap
  • goggles
  • body glide
  • wetsuit
  • wristwatch
  • T1 water bottle
  • Transition towel
  • socks
  • bike shoes
  • bike/tri jersey
  • race belt with race number attached
  • sunglasses
  • helmet
  • bicycle
  • sunscreen
  • drinks for bike
  • salt tabs - maybe not for a sprint race
  • Gu or other food
  • running hat
  • clean clothes for after race
  • Drivers license / ID
  • cell phone
  • cash
Of course this doesn't cover everything - just the gear I take with me on race day. I always have equipment in the saddle bag on my bike which I didn't list - including spare innertubes, CO2 cartridges, tire levers and a multi-tool. I also create a race morning "todo" list - with tasks like pump up bike tires and lube the chain before I load it into the car, reset the bike computer, apply sunscreen, or chamois butter. I also have different checklists with more items which are for out of town races, or races of different lengths. But having these lists, and updating them as I make changes to my routine or discover missing items, has made my race mornings much less stressful. I hope this helps someone in preparing for their next race, and if I missed anything you think is important then let me know!

Triathlon as an Expression of Free Will

Why do we do the things we do? Our hobbies, our beliefs, our occupations? Far too often the answer is a lamentable "convenience". For me, I fall into this convenience pattern for long stretches - then snap myself out of it with radical, grand gestures.
I am a professional software engineer. That came easy for me because I was good at math, and I enjoyed computers. So I got an engineering degree, studied computer science and started working. It was the path of least resistance, I just did what came naturally to me. I moved to Chicago because that's where the jobs were, it all just made sense. I don't mean to say that any of that was easy - my undergraduate degree was the toughest thing I've ever done, it made Ironman look like a game of paddy cake. And moving away from everyone I knew was tough, as was living on my own and being broke. Don't get me wrong - I love writing software, and embedded systems is my passion. I found the right career for me, no doubt. But I got there by taking the easy path - by using my god given strengths.
I had been an athlete as a kid. I focused on basketball early on, and though I was short I did OK. I played at the high school level and then very briefly in college. I was 18 and learned quickly that I did not have the talent to play at that level, and the amount of work I needed to put in to compete would have destroyed my grades. So I quit basketball during the fall of my freshman year, which would end up being the most heart wrenching breakup I have ever suffered. That day I stopped being an athlete, and became an engineer. It was a good career choice, I have a low VO2max and a high capacity for technical learning. I started drinking soda, I started eating pizza and fast food, I started watching TV, I started living like an engineer.
I took all of these habits with me when I got my first apartment and started working. I had blossomed up to 190 pounds or so when I graduated college, from the 165 of my basketball days. It was no big deal to me, I didn't feel fat and I was now more of a thinker than a laborer. That first year in Chicago I was broke and working long hours, so I ate out at lunch and my dinner was always something easy. Mac and Cheese or frozen pizza. I would sometimes eat a family size Jello pudding box as a treat. Eventually I had disposable income, and in came the luxuries. I bought a lazy-boy recliner and an overstuffed couch, holy crap do I love those. I bought a large screen TV, and subscribed to the NFL Sunday Ticket - and spent every Sunday watching 10+ hours of football, to the point where it gave me headaches. I was exhausted without ever leaving my couch. I bought a Tivo the first day it was on the market (at the early adopter price of only $750!) and instantly fell in love. This new toy allowed me to not just watch TV, but to watch everything on TV. And I did. To paraphrase Dean Karnazes "I was so comfortable I was miserable".
Eventually I moved in with an old college buddy of mine. I don't remember why, but we started working out together - mostly jogging. We were never very consistent, and I hated every minute of it - so eventually I bought a bike. A mountain bike, to ride on the pavement in Chicago - brilliant. I rode it on a 12 mile loop in a nearby park pretty regularly (until the snow got deeper than a few inches) and even to work a few times. Eventually I stopped riding. I moved to California with a new job, and started working harder than ever, which returned me to my slovenly ways.
Then in June of 2006 I got the dust off my mountain bike and rode it to work. I don't remember why - I probably saw someone riding on the road as I was driving to work one day, or maybe it was high gas prices. I weighed 210 pounds that day. The seven miles from my apartment to work felt like a million. But it was great - I bragged about my epic ride to all my co-workers. I started riding to work regularly for the next month, almost every day. There's something magical and deeply rewarding about being a bike commuter - I recommend it to everyone. Then, it happened. A college friend who also had moved to San Diego recommended I get a road bike. He told me those knobby tires were slowing me down, and I needed to upgrade. So I started looking, and like most first time bicycle purchasers I was shocked at the prices! What happened to getting a $100 bike at Wal-Mart? I bought a medium end road bike for twice what I originally wanted to spend - and began riding it both to work and with a local bike club on Saturdays. I fell in love - head over heals with cycling. As an engineer I liked the practical brilliance of a bike - the sheer efficiency of it all - the precision of the components. But there was more, something visceral about riding a bike. Everything looks different when you're traveling by self locomotion. I started to think of my body as a machine that turns food into rotational motion, and my bike as a machine that turns rotational motion into translational motion. That lead me to eat a little better. And each week I got a little faster on those club rides.
I talked about cycling with everyone who would listen. My good friends NS and SP suggested that I do a triathlon. Me? A triathlon? I had seen Ironman on TV - triathlon was serious. Plus, I hate the water. I'm scared of the ocean, and I hadn't been in a swimming pool in 20 years - and I was only 28 years old.
So I thought about it. I couldn't swim. I liked to cycle, but was far from being competitive. I couldn't run a mile without wheezing - and I cursed every step along the way. As a geek at heart I have always admired NASA and the Apollo moon missions. I thought back to a speech John F. Kennedy gave that launched the space program in 1962:
"We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy - but because they are hard! Because that challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone and one we intend to win!"
I had no ability - no talent as a triathlete. And that thought clinched it. I chose to become a triathlete not because it was easy - but because it was hard. It was ludicrous. I signed up for Wildflower and didn't tell anyone other than NS and SP - because it was so ridiculous an idea that everyone would laugh at me. And I secretly thought I wouldn't be able to do it. I had moved cities three times since the last time I did anything athletic. None of my current friends would have believed that I was training for a triathlon. Even NS and SP whom I had known for over 10 years had never imagined me as an athlete, and were shocked when I told them I had played basketball.
I learned to swim. I became a cyclist. I survived my running. I raced Wildflower and kicked ass. I discovered ocean swimming. I lost 40 pounds. I became an Ironman. I lived one more piece of my dream.

That's why I race. Because my life is my own. To prove I'm not bound by the restrictions and stereotypes of my career. That I choose the person I will be tomorrow. To push myself beyond the limits I once believed I had. To prove that I can do anything I choose. That I don't fit in a box.

Go ahead, try to box me in. I dare you.

New Year's Eve

Tomorrow starts my training for the 2009 season. I'm excited and hopeful, but also a little nervous. I have high hopes for this season - I'm not ready to articulate them right now, but it's significantly more ambitious than last season.
A bit of a postmortem on my triathlon life in 2008:
  • I PR'd at the half marathon distance. Not hard to do since I can't run at all!
  • I did a century bike ride with 20-30 MPH headwinds for the first 50 miles. I'm pretty sure every roadie in SD was on my wheel the whole way out - freakin' drafters. I went on a pub crawl that afternoon.
  • I completed my first 70.3 distance triathlon
  • I purchased a beautiful new racing bike, pushing my retirement out to age 75
  • I completed my second 70.3 race six weeks after the first, with the flu. The Wildflower course is hellacious!
  • For the first time I ran a hot weather race without getting dizzy or headachey from dehydration
  • I completed a 3 mile ocean swim. Dehydration insued
  • I did two epic bike rides of 140+ miles
  • I failed to complete a event for the first time. Severe dehydration beat me on this one, but I'm already planning my revenge on the California desert
  • I completed the "Triple Crown" of San Diego half marathons - Carlsbad, La Jolla, AFC
  • I rode myself into the ground on a hot day so badly that the next morning I passed out and cut my head open banging it into a wall
  • I rode 100+ miles every saturday for eight weeks straight
  • I became an Ironman, and did it faster than I thought I would
But that was 2008, and it's behind me now. Last season I found the confidence I needed to do serious endurance events, and the experience I needed to complete them. This season I will be doing big things. No more of this "I just hope I finish" BS - this year I'm racing. This year I'm focused on fixing the things I do badly, and honing the things I do well. Tops on the "fixing" list are:
  1. Running better. Good lord do I need help here, I'm sure there's more to come on this topic.
  2. Training and race day nutrition/hydration. I did OK at Ironman Arizona in this area, it felt pretty good. The previous 14 months however were a disaster, and I nearly put myself in the hospital four times.
  3. Everyday nutrition. I'm overweight. People give me shit when I say this - I'm 6' tall and weigh 180 pounds, which by many people's standards is a normal weight. I don't give a damn about body image or any of that crap - I'm trying to go fast. That means maximizing my power to weight ratio. To do that I need to get my Body Mass Index down - which means no more crappy food.
The "honing" list consists of:
  1. Maintaining my swim progress. I made a breakthrough this season, and my swimming has come a long way. I still have serious problems with my stroke, but I'm starting to understand this sport better now.
  2. Cycling. I f'in love it. I am a worse cyclist now than I was a year ago (had to sacrifice to learn to swim and run) but I'm still a Cat 4, and I'd like to improve upon my IMAZ performance.
So that's it, my 2009 in a nutshell. I proved in 2008 that I can't handle anything outside of work and training, so I'm going to stick with that formula for 2009. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ironman bike breakdown

I'm going to try to break down my performance on the bike at Ironman Arizona last week. I used a Powertap power meter for the race, so I have lots of data - lets see what it says.
The course is a 112 mile route consisting of an out and back loop which is repeated 3 times.

As you can see, the course is pretty flat - it climbs about 500 feet over 18.6 miles, then you turn around and go back down. Rinse and repeat 3 times, and you're done. Obviously the uphill section is more difficult than the downhill section, so I'm going to break it down into 6 segments: the three climbs, and the three descents.

First, lets look at the power, heart rate and speed data for the climbs on each loop.
climb 1: 198 watts 152 bpm 18.5 mph
climb 2: 180 watts 140 bpm 16.9 mph
climb 3: 157 watts 133 bpm 17.8 mph

My plan was to go out easy on the first loop, hammer the second, and go easy again on the third. Boy was I off - I knew as I was racing that I had gone out too hard. But I felt so good, I was racing Ironman! As you can see clearly I got progressively weaker during the ride, which is not good. However, even in this very small and controlled set of data there are variables to consider. Notice how between lap 1 and lap 3 I decreased my power by over 20%, but my speed only decreased by 4%. Turns out I was working much harder on lap 1 because it was into a headwind, which by lap 3 had died down. The important number here is the power - I was targeting 180 watts, and my average for the race was only 163. Clearly I went out too hard, and by the end I couldn't hold my numbers. I didn't notice this while I was racing, I felt good the whole way.
However, if you look at the power distribution chart, I wasn't so far off my 180 watt target after all.

Well look at that - my power distribution is centered right on 180 watts. The average is being dragged down because I spent 6.5% of the ride (22 minutes) coasting below 20 watts! This was deliberate as I was only trying to average 18.6 MPH for the ride (6 hours) and I figured if I could rest my legs while still going fast, I would do it.

Here are the descent numbers
descent 1: 165 watts 139 bpm 25.1 mph
descent 2: 148 watts 133 bpm 23.0 mph
descent 3: 125 watts 124 bpm 19.6 mph

Not much to say about these. Lap 1 included a tailwind, which lessened as the day went on. The wattage numbers aren't as important here since I was coasting as much as I could to rest - especially on lap 3. You can see this clearly in the heart rate trend.

Another interesting observation is that my highest power output over 30 minutes occurred between minutes 2 and 32. Also, my highest 60 minute power section was between minutes 0 and 60. This means I need to work on pacing, I really need to judge my effort better so I can be more consistent over a long ride.

My overall numbers were:
Distance: 112.2 miles
Time: 5:42:04
Speed: 19.7 MPH
Power: 163 watts
Cadence: 86 rpm

I spoke to a pro before the race who told me his plan was to average 300 watts. Are you kidding me?! It's too early to start thinking about specifics, but I'd like to get up near the 200 range for an Ironman bike course this year. I guess we'll see in a few months.

Cliff Diving

I dove off a cliff today - I'm not sure how it will work out. I spent the last month digging a hole, and somehow that resulted in me on the precipice of an abyss. Now it looks like I'm going to be falling for the next 10 months - hopefully I won't hit too many rocks on the way down.
I'm happy with my decision - I did it for the right reasons. I swallowed my pride, set my emotions aside, and dove in head first.
I'm determined to make it work. To fix the things I broke - not back to the way they were, or the way I imagined them to be, but to a new and better state.
All I need to do is to get used to falling.


I am an atheist. I hate having to say that, because it seems so unnecessary. I don't believe in god, and we've given that a name - atheist. We don't always associate a word with the lack of belief in something. There's no word for "someone who does not believe in alien UFO's". There is no word for "people who don't believe in leprechauns". But for some reason we have to label "people who don't believe in supernatural sky gods" as atheists. So here I am, labeled with my scarlet A. Before the hate mail starts coming in, I'd like to clarify that I am not saying that Religion is "bad". I'm not denying any of the positive things that have been done in the name of religion. And I'm certainly not singling out any one particular religion. What I am saying is that any religion in which a supernatural being created the Earth and everything on it is simply not accurate, at least scientifically speaking.
A few years ago I discovered the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It still cracks me up. If you find it offensive, then you don't understand satire. It was created to point out the ridiculous argument being made by the Kansas School Board to teach Intelligent Design in public schools science class. Being a scientist (I'm an engineer professionally, but I do have a degree in Computer Science) I am very interested in how science is taught in schools. Math and Science are the foundations of knowledge, and I'm concerned about our future if our proficiency in these areas continues on a downward path.
Intelligent Design is creationism. It pretends to be science, but it's not - it's religion. And that's the real problem. I don't have any issues with religion in public schools - in theology class. In that context, talk about ID and creationism all you want - that's perfectly fair. But creationism, and therefore Intelligent Design, are not science - and should be kept far away from the biology classroom. There will be, I'm sure, people who want to debate that point with me. Don't bother, I don't have any interest in it. Not because I'm a head-in-a-hole evolutionist who is closed minded - but because I've heard it all. And ID as science is so vacuous an argument that it doesn't even make much sense to discuss. To do so is to lend the idea credence that it doesn't deserve. My point is this: math and science are difficult. Don't make it even more difficult for the next generation by mixing science with fairy tales in the biology classroom.

Why go into all of this? Because as an non-theist I live in a world where religion stifles me in many ways. Some of them are:
  • Proposition 8 in California
  • Stem Cell Research
  • Schools who teach children that the Earth is 6000 years old
  • The hijacking of Science by politicians and media
  • Global Climate Change
  • Extremists (of nearly every religious sect) who teach hate and bigotry
  • Tax exemptions for Churches
Maybe I'll write about some of these in the future.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Getting back to work

Back in the pool tonight 8 days after racing Ironman Arizona. I had tentatively planned on taking 4 weeks off - all the way until January, but I'm getting seriously restless already. I felt sluggish and tired in the pool tonight - and I was slow, 10 seconds slower per 100 meters than before the race. Ouch. I'm going to take a few more days off and get back at it on Thursday, which is 4 months out from my next race. This season I have a coach, who's a real cool guy - and I'm super excited to work with him. He's going to try to teach me to be a runner. He doesn't know how gigantic a task he has! Crap do I hate running. I suck at it, and hate it, and I'm pretty sure it hates me. Maybe we can change some of that during this year. There are some other aspects of this season I'm not super excited about, but I'm hopeful that stuff will work itself out. It shouldn't be a big deal - but I have a talent for magnifying problems. I'm going to put my faith in the idea that if you surround yourself with good people, good things will come. I've certainly done the former, I have the best friends on the planet, and I'm very careful about whom I associate myself with.

Baby steps

I see a lot of blogs documenting people's road to Ironman. They tend to be lists of workouts, inspirational quotes, and culminate in the author achieving their goal of completing the Ironman race, a photo of their new M-Dot tattoo, and then nothing. I'm starting backwards. I just completed my first Ironman, and am going to be blogging about nothing in particular. There will probably be a lot of workout related posts - I've been completely obsessed with triathlon for two years, and especially since I started training for the Ironman. It's really been the only thing on my mind for the last 14 months, so I'm sure I'll write about it eventually. But I've had a lot of free time lately for a change - 3 weeks of taper before the race, and now some recovery afterwards - and I guess I'm getting bored.
I'll probably write about other random things as well - I'm a true geek and I love writing software. I'll try to keep the geek stuff to a minimum, but no promises. This will probably be a winding road, hope someone finds it entertaining :)